Draughn’s return will have a domino effect on UNC’s offensive depth chart. Though Davis did not say whether Draughn would start Saturday, he could get the lion’s share of the team’s carries.
If he does, it will take the ball out of the hands of Johnny White, who fumbled against LSU. White could also be moved back to returning kicks on the special teams unit, where sophomore Hunter Furr struggled in week one.
Perhaps no one will be happier to see the team’s second-leading rusher last season back in action than quarterback T.J. Yates. Yates set a career best of 412 passing yards against LSU, but was forced to carry the offense in the absence of a consistent run game.
“He’s one of the leaders on this offense, on this team, so having him back is going to give everyone a little more excitement, a little morale boost,” Yates said. “I’m excited to see him run, because he’s been practicing hard and I know he’s been itching to get out there.”
Draughn’s performance will aid Yates following the quarterback’s struggles against 3-4 defenses led by former Virginia head coach and current Ga. Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh.
In last season’s 16-3 loss to Groh’s Virginia team, Yates threw for just 135 yards and tossed two interceptions. His poor performance was exacerbated by a lack of support from a run game that managed a measly 39 yards.
“We’ve just got to be more efficient running the ball,” Yates said. “Last year in the Virginia game, pretty much everything that could went wrong. We’re looking to improve on pretty much everything.”
Draughn’s return will also offer some relief to a defense that has been crippled by the NCAA and University investigations. In addition to missing as many as seven of its starters, the defense will also have to contend with Georgia Tech’s unique triple-option.
If Draughn can keep the offense on the field by running the ball consistently, the defense will have to spend less time dealing with coach Paul Johnson’s run-heavy scheme that destroyed UNC in a 24-7 victory last season.
“It just adds another threat to our offense,” linebacker Bruce Carter said. “Shaun’s a great back. You know he’s going to be going out there and you know he’s going to have a lot of energy just to get that first snap, so I think Shaun’s going to do a great job for us.”
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